We think it is safe to say that in today’s technologically advanced world, time management continues to be a challenge. The promise that technology will help us gain more control of our lives, has actually added to our to-do lists. On one hand, we do have access to anything and anyone 24/7. The flip side is that others have access to us 24/7. That unlimited reach by co-workers, bosses and family members to interact with us, assign work and ask questions, is creating an even bigger imbalance. So, technology is neither the savior nor the solution to our time management problems, unless we take control of it and leverage the time saving aspects to our advantage. Word of warning, if you allow technology to go unmanaged, it can easily overwhelm you and your ability to manage your time.
Technology, however, is not the only thing impacting our effective time management skills. The expectation of availability during non-working hours can cause anxiety and stress, which negatively affect one’s home life and can put a strain on personal relationships. Societal norms increase pressures on our time by asking people to spend more quality time with family and friends. To be the best employee, family member, friend and be part of the community, there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Some interesting statistics that illustrate this point are:
- 75% of people check work email on days off and after hours
- The percentage decreases for vacation but still – 61% of people check at least occasionally while on vacation.
Statistic, Work Email Trends After Hours 2017, Reachmail
So how do we take control of time and stop it from controlling us. Well, some will say that is easier said than done. We also know that there are many tactics that can help you gain control, but we would like to share some that have worked for us:
1. Ditch the To-do list
We are not suggesting you stop creating a list of things you need to complete, that would create a bigger problem. What we are suggesting is for you to manage your list in a different way. What we find that helps to manage time and to-do list management is to merge the two into one tool by putting your tasks on your calendar as an “appointment”, you are more likely to get it done because:
- You are scheduling it when you are not already busy with something else.
- The reminder feature of the calendar program is set so that you get a reminder about the task that tends to move us towards wrapping up whatever we are currently doing.
- If you have shared calendars where you work, putting them on your calendar will show that you are busy and meetings will be more likely scheduled when you actually have free time.
2. Don’t let quantity displace quality
This means that the sense of urgency to respond to an email, Facebook, Tweet, or request of you shouldn’t be done at the expense of quality. Spend a little more time reading or listening before responding to reduce the amount of exchange. If an email response is done so quickly that it requires five more emails to clarify the purpose how does that help save time? So, yes you were quick to respond (and we do like timely responses), but maybe too quick and as a result the quality of the response was unclear which leads to confusion, errors, frustration, more emails and lower productivity. Slow down and read it thoroughly to balance quality and quantity.
3. Don’t be a slave to your email
One of the easiest things you can to do take control of your time is to turn off the “push notification” feature of your email. At first it seemed pretty cool that you could see when something arrived, but you soon realize that this becomes an easy distraction and you are not focused on what matters most at the time. You are interrupting what you are doing to respond quickly to a request, which results in less productivity.
4. Learn to say NO.
This is challenging because we don’t want to seem uncooperative, but there are only 24 hours in every day. If saying NO is too big of a leap, start by saying MAYBE, allowing the dialogue to continue to get to the root of the request. A great technique to assist with the dialogue is to use the Urgent/Important Matrix to clarify how the request should be handled. Who knows, maybe it really didn’t need to be done or someone else should do it. Here’s a thought, maybe the person asking is trying to give you something they should actually be doing.
5. Plan your work and work your plan
Nothing you haven’t heard already, but very powerful. Take time at the point in the day you are you’re most productive and plan. If you are a morning person, start the day spending 5-10 minutes plotting out your day. Some of you may rather do this exercise right before bed so you know that when you wake up in the morning you are ready to hit the ground running. We also recommend scheduling weekly and monthly planning time too.
6. Exercise and get some sleep
We know you have heard this before and the statistics don’t lie. According to a study done by J.C. Coulson, employees who exercised before work or during lunch breaks were better able to handle; the day’s demands and:
- 80 % said mental and interpersonal performance was better
- 27 % said they better managed stressful situations in a calm manner
- 21 % were higher for concentration on work
- 41 % were higher for feeling motivated to work
As it relates to sleep, do we need to say that a good night’s sleep results in better performance? One study by the National Sleep Foundation showed that 50 million Americans suffer from sleep problems, many stemming from working long hours, negatively affecting their work, health, relationships, and safety. It also affects their mood and attitude at work. Do yourself and others a favor and get to bed earlier so there will be more time to do the things you need to do. Because of being sleepy:
- 40% said they have become impatient with others at least a few times a month
- 27% said they frequently found it difficult to concentrate at work
- 20% felt that their production was below what they had expected
If implemented, these tips will help you balance your priorities and the priorities of others.
Let’s face it, if you aren’t taking charge of your schedule, someone else is.